The Big Picture

  • Jessica Gunning says she knew she was drawn to Martha in
    Baby Reindeer
    from the first read-through.
  • Her chemistry with Richard Gadd was crucial in casting Martha, leading to four auditions.
  • Gunning went the extra mile by getting help from an Oscar-winning makeup designer to nail the right look in the audition.

There are so many moving parts that go into making a film or TV show a success. At the very top of the list is casting, as the actors are the faces that deliver the content to viewers, essentially making or breaking the unseen and oftentimes years of hard work that transpired behind the scenes. If an actor really nails a role in a popular project, it will be a piece of work they’ll be tied to for the rest of their career, something that Jessica Gunning is now experiencing. Although she has plenty of other credits to her name, Gunning recently launched further into the public eye for her portrayal as a stalker named Martha in Netflix’s latest bingeable hit, Baby Reindeer. The story is not only near and dear to creator and star Richard Gadd’s heart because it’s been in development for years, but also because it’s based on his traumatizing real-life experiences. Therefore, finding the perfect person to play the role of his unwavering stalker was of the utmost importance.

During an interview with Collider’s Perri Nemiroff for a recent installment of Ladies Night, Gunning revealed that she knew this was a part she was born to play from her very first read-through, and shared what the casting department was looking for in Gadd’s co-star.

Jessica Gunning’s Chemistry With Richard Gadd Was Important

Most actors will be drawn to a character as they do a read-through, but for Gunning, she said that her gut reaction to Martha was a horse of an entirely different color.

“It’s so funny because I read all of the episodes in one go and
I just had such a strong response to the character of Martha
. I just kept feeling like,
‘I know how to do this,’
and I don’t usually feel like that. Usually, I kind of think, ‘Right, well, if this is meant to be, it’s meant to be. I’ll go in, do the audition, and what will be will be.’ But for this, I was just like, ‘I just know how to play her.’”

Gunning went on to explain that a top priority for the casting team was for Gadd to have a strong and undeniable chemistry with the woman who would serve as the show’s co-anchor. Walking Nemiroff through that process, Gunning said,

“So I suppose we had about four auditions because, obviously, the
chemistry between me and Richard would have been really important
, so I think they wanted to kind of double-check that quite a lot of the time.”

Gunning Called in An Oscar Winner To Help With Her Look

After her initial read-through was a success and her chemistry follow-up with Gadd went well, Gunning said that there was one thing still up in the air. Luckily, she has some close and talented industry friends who helped her solidify her spot as Martha.

“Then I’d heard on the grapevine that the age difference was potentially a question mark. So, I actually got a friend of mine who is a makeup designer called
Nadia Stacey
, who has now won an Oscar for

Poor Things

. She’s amazing. She’s a good friend of mine, and she was like, ‘
Why don’t I put a wig on you
, and then you go and tape yourself, and you say, ‘Look!’? [Laughs] So we did. She was amazing. I’ve never done anything like that for a part before, but yeah, she wigged me up and did another tape to send over to Richard and everyone, and
], the director, and said, ‘Look, maybe like this? Try and imagine me here.’ So all in all, I think I probably, over the space of about four months, met for the part about five times. I suppose I really did fight for it in that way.”

You can check out Nemiroff’s full interview with Gunning below and binge all seven episodes of Baby Reindeer now on Netflix.

Baby Reindeer Netflix Poster

Baby Reindeer (2024)

In a dark and gripping narrative, a young man’s life spirals into chaos when an innocent encounter at his bar job leads to an obsessive stalking by an older woman. The film skillfully explores themes of privacy, obsession, and the boundaries of social interaction.

Release Date
April 11, 2024

Richard Gadd , Jessica Gunning , Danny Kirrane , Nava Mau

Main Genre


Richard Gadd

Richard Gadd

Streaming Service(s)

Weronika Tofilska , Josephine Bornebusch

Watch on Netflix

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